Thursday, April 23, 2020

On a slightly weird week....

So, that got a little weird in a hurry.

By now most of you know that mom celebrated working 40 years at Shoppers Drug Mart last Saturday. That's because, in a first for this blog, the post went viral.

How viral? Well, let's put it in some perspective. The previous three posts had the following amount of traffic.

Comic Art Collection: Thor - 45 clicks.
Comic Art Collection: Supergirl and Batgirl - 46 clicks
Settling in (how things are going up here) - 93 clicks

The top picture is from opening day 1980 with her former
boss John. The bottom two are from 2019.
The post on mom's anniversary? - 10,250 clicks. And it's still climbing, although at a much slower rate. There were 8,000 page view on Sunday alone.

The previous best for the past three years was my last update to the Moving to Iqaluit FAQ back in 2017 (which reminds me, I need to do that again), and it had 4,061.

But the numbers for all of this are astounding. Yes, my blog experienced a massive spike in traffic, but that's only part of it. NTV reporter Jodi Cooke put out a congratulatory tweet on April 18. It has 28 retweets, 73 comments, and 642 likes. Then I got an email from CBC's Krissy Holmes asking if we'd like to appear on the Morning Show. I think mom was a bit nervous, but it was fun. All I had to do was  remember I was the sidekick and let mom do her thing, which she always does.

You can listen to the whole thing here. Or read the story here.

And how was the reaction to the CBC story? The story was shared 84 times, with over 1,300 likes and 234 people commented on it.

Two sitting MPs extending congrats to her. And after the story she told about Danny Williams' mom I'm half surprised a new car hasn't shown up in her driveway.

On top of that mom said she's had a lot of people wave at her at Shoppers and congratulate her on her anniversary. She's threaten to put me up for adoption because of all the attention, which is a nice blast from the past....she hasn't threatened me with that since I was 16. But she loves it. I know she does.

But here's the thing that truly blows my mind. I haven't read all the comments and tweets, but I've read a lot of them. Nobody said anything bad.

Not one snarky comment. No one from PETA coming out of the woodwork and bashing the cosmetics industry. No one with a "bad" customer experience coming to correct everyone. Everything was positive. They congratulated her. They told happy stories about their interaction with mom.  They talked about what an important part of their lives she's been over the years (One 53-year-old woman said she's been buying make-up from mom since she was 15). They said how much they loved her.

If you bring a wee dog into the
store, mom has to say hi.
I'm not one to idly throw around the word "miraculous" but in this day of instant outrage and anger on social media, this is as close to one as you will find.

But it's mom....I am utterly unsurprised.

But the nice thing isn't just the numbers and the outpouring of's that mom can get to see it all. It occurred to me that this kind of thing often happens....after the person is no longer around to hear it. Mom's going to be around for a long time yet, but it's nice that she can see all of this. It's one thing to know you're good at your job and for people to compliment you, but this kind of wave of adoration it is a rare thing. I really hope she's soaking it in and enjoying it.

And now, one last mom story. Because I'm kicking myself for not putting it in the original post, and because it's honestly hilarious to me.

It's not just that mom's been working at Shoppers for 40 years, she's also worked Christmas Eve for every single year she's been with Shoppers. Hell, from mid-November to Christmas she rarely takes a day off because it's so busy.

But my favourite thing about her working Christmas Eve is that every year, every year, there's a group of men who discover around 4 pm that it's Christmas (funny how that can just sneak up on you) and maybe they should buy something for their wives. I think the record for someone coming into the store was at 4:55 on Christmas Eve when they close at 5.

If you're a woman who lives in the East End and you've ever received a suspiciously nice bottle of perfume for Christmas....well, odds are your husband was at Shoppers 20 minutes before close the day before.

I know it amuses mom, although she never takes advantage of them or tries to oversell them. She tries to find out what their wife likes, and if she's ever shopped there before, and tries to find the best thing for them....all before the store closes in a few minutes.

I've said that mom should get an award for the number of marriages she's saved. Hell, she's probably prevented a few murders.

So there you go....the last Daphne story....for now.

Man, it's going to be hard to top this for Mother's Day next month....

Last Five
1. Heart to heart with Lionel - Joel Plaskett Emergency
2. Slow disco - St. Vincent
3. Battlefords - Hawksley Workman*
4. Making a noise - Robbie Robertson
5. Growin' up (live) - Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band

Saturday, April 18, 2020

40 years at Shoppers

My record for longest stint at a job is the one I'm currently in. This June it will mark eight years. And if you throw in the 16 months I did earlier, went away, and then came back to the job, I have a little over nine years at this gig. It marks an almost unheard of level of job stability for me. Previously, I've tended to bounce around. I think if you ask most people my age or younger, the number of people who have spent decades at a job are relatively rare.

And even if you do spend a few decades at a job, you normally retire. Teachers tend to go at 30 years, for example.

Mom and I, Christmas 2012 at Shoppers.
Then there's my mom. Today marks her 40th anniversary working for Shoppers Drug Mart on Torbay Road. Hell, if you toss in her time at the Zellers that used to be in that mall, she's spent 45 years on that parking lot. If there was ever a demand for a history of the Torbay Road Mall, it begins and ends with my mom.

I have a vague recollection of mom starting at Shoppers. The store was opening in the mall (Zellers was on one end, Dominion on the other, in-between was a CIBC, Shoppers, a doctor's office, a Chinese restaurant, and several smaller stores) and it was a big deal. First one on the east end of town. She'd been working at Zellers for years and was excited about not just getting a new job, but also becoming head cosmetician. It was a big deal for her.

And it's still a big deal for her. Mom loves her job. Odds are you've never loved a job the way my mom loves hers. Lord knows she doesn't do it for the money. She just loves people. She loves helping people and chatting with them. I've spoken to mom more times than I can count at 11 pm after she's just finished an eight hours shift and she's fine. She normally hangs up to go and get her cup of coffee. And then she's back to work for a 10 am shift the next morning.

That's not something she did years ago. That's something she probably did this week.

Yeah, she's still working. I've asked her to stop working during the COVID-19 crisis, but she keeps going in. She's not selling make-up right now; she's just helping out around the store, trying to be useful. It makes me nervous as hell, but she keeps working. Because it's what she loves doing. Working and being helpful.

If you've walked into that Shoppers and talked to my mom, odds are you have a story about her. If you've talked to her for more than a few minutes, odds are you know something about me (I've long since given up asking her to not do that). She's sold makeup to news anchors, make-up artists on film/TV productions, and others. One of her absolutely favourite customers was Danny Williams' mom. She got a kick out of that and always took good care of her.

Then again, she always takes good care of everyone.

She's outlasted everyone in the store. The original owner retired years ago. I wouldn't place a bet against her outlasting the current owner. And the one after him. I'm not giving up here age here, but she shows no signs of retiring. I imagine I'll be updating this in 10 years time when we celebrate her 50th anniversary at the store.

My favourite mom story? This would have been around 2012. I was back in Newfoundland for Christmas and discovered, to my horror, that mom was working Christmas Day. I asked her why, as she obviously had the seniority to get that day off.

"Well, most of the rest of the cosmetics staff have young ones or young family and they should spend Christmas morning with them rather than being in here. And you're old enough to not need me there Christmas morning and I knew you'd understand. So that's why."

The photo above is from me going in that morning and spending an hour or so with her in the store, before she shooed me home out of it. Which has always been the way when I visit her at the store. She's happy to see me and chat, but if there's a customer who looks like they need help, she'll stop mid-conversation to go over and take care of them.

Odds are she's not celebrating this day the way she wanted. She's been looking forward to this day for a long time. It likely won't be the celebration she wanted, but I hope they do lots for her anyway. I've always thought Shoppers has never appreciated her the way she deserves.

For years, I've had some variant of this conversation:

"Well, I'm never sure how much longer I'll get to do this, Craig. I'm not sure how long they'll want someone my age in cosmetics."

"Mom, the number of women you bring into that store who want to know the secret of how you look so good at your age should mean you get to stay there forever."

And she does. Mom has consistently looked 10-15 younger than she actually is. She has, on occasion, passed me off as her younger brother. Which amuses her, and makes me roll my eyes, but whatever. It gives her a laugh.

And women do come in and ask her secret. And she's happy to sell them some moisturizer she uses, or some other products. And they go away happy. But she never tells them the real reason why she looks so young.

Just love what you do for 40 years and be a kind and amazing person. Works every time.

Happy 40 years, mom. Here's to at least another 10.

Monday, April 13, 2020

Comic Art Collection 11 - Thor

Thor by Walt Simonson, 9 x 12

I can still remember how excited I was to get this sketch. It was at New York Comic Con in 2008, which as I've said before was my first con. Most of those days were kind of stumbling around Artist Alley getting random sketches from artists. I was perfectly happy doing that. But at some point I made my way to the Hero Initiative booth and realized that Walt Simonson was going to do a commission session.

From one of the best issues in
Simonson's run on the series
So, two things. First, for those of you who don't know, Walt Simonson is one of the legends of the comic book industry. His run on Thor in the 1980s is cited by pretty much everyone as one of the greatest and most important runs on the character. I'm not saying he saved the character for Marvel, but no one has been particularly excited by him in quite some time. Then Simonson came on board, doing both story and art, and everything changed. There was energy, dynamic storytelling, beautiful sound effects (Simonson is a master at cool looking sound effects in comics) and more. There's always so much energy on a Simonson page, even when it's characters talking. It just feels like something big is about to happen, just as soon as you turn the page.

Second, he was doing this for Hero Initiative, an amazing organization that should not need to exist. Who are they? Well, this is straight from their website:

The Hero Initiative creates a financial safety net for comic creators who may need emergency medical aid, financial support for essentials of life, and an avenue back into paying work. Since inception, the Hero Initiative has been fortunate enough to benefit creators with more than $1 million worth of much-needed aid, fueled by your contributions! It’s a chance for all of us to give back something to the people who have given us so much enjoyment.

It's one of the most aggravating things about the comic industry. Creators who have worked for decades, who have created characters or storylines that have made movie studios millions, often are left struggling. Especially as they near retirement age and comic book companies become less interested in their work. Or that many creators still working can get into trouble so quickly if they have the slightest personal or health emergency.

I fear Hero Initiative is going to be overwhelmed in the coming months.

Anyway, in this case I saw that Simonson was going to be doing sketches for the organization. In over two hours.

You have to make that call sometimes at comic cons. I want this thing, but I'm going to have to line up for hours, and how much other cool things could I do during that time? In this case, it was a pretty simple call. I got in line. I was #2. By the time Simonson started sketching, there were about 30-40 people in line, which meant most were going to be disappointed.

I was nervous because I figured everyone was going to ask for Thor and you can never be 100% sure how an artist will react to being asked to draw the same character over and over again. Fortunately, the guy in front of me wanted Batman. So I was the first person to ask for, and get, Thor.

That sketch took about 20 minutes or so. I happily paid my money to Hero Initiative. I got a great sketch from a legend comic artist and I helped to support a great cause. I've done it several more times since. If Hero Initiative is at a comic con, I always go there, sometimes multiple times, and get a sketch.

I'm not saying this is the sketch that got me hooked on collecting comic art, but it might have been the one to seal the deal. I'd had a blast wandering around Artist Alley that con, getting fun stuff. But the notion I could get something from an artist of Simonson's stature....that this was a thing that I could do....that was probably the final nail in the coffin.

You can read all of Simonson's Thor issues via Comixology or if you want the Omnibus is still available. It is pricy, however, going for around $150.

Last Five
1. We don't deserve love - Arcade Fire
2. Helpless - k.d. lang*
3. Conversation piece - Kings of Leon
4. Selkie - Tori Amos
5. The skies will break - Corinne Bailey Rae